Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Schoolnet experiences a Mandela Day well spent - at the Sunshine Association in Johannesburg

Submitted by the Joburg staff of Schoolnet
With Mandela Day coming up the SchoolNet Johannesburg branch felt we wanted to make our 67 minute contribution to society along with the rest of South Africa.  After searching for charities that are around and near the SchoolNet offices in Braamfontein we finally decided that we would spend our 67 minutes of Mandela Day 18 July at Sunshine Association, located in the leafy suburb of Craighall, Johannesburg. This was a decision we’ll never regret making, and what a humbling experience it turned out to be! 

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The history of Sunshine Association

The Sunshine Association was established in 1976, when a group of concerned mothers, headed by Sylvia Langenhoven, formed a small playgroup for their young children with disabilities. The aim of the group was to provide the children with early intervention and stimulation and to support the parents. 

Today, the Sunshine Association has 3 centres namely Craighall, Soweto/Eldorado Park and Elsburg(Germiston);  and it is committed to aiding the development of children with intellectual, development or physical disabilities and delays, working in partnership with families, communities and professionals to offer these children, their families and communities the vital services and support they require. The training programme based on normal development for the age group 0 – 7 years and can be used to identify developmental delays in children. 

The Craighall centre has a daily care programme for 70 disabled kids and an extra 7 able bodied kids which runs from 8.00AM until 1.00PM with an aftercare programme available.

Our Experience at Sunshine Association

By 8.30AM on the morning of the 18 of July our Schoolnet staff gathered at Sunshine Association and we were greeted by Shannon – the lady who runs the centre. When asked what SchoolNet should bring on the day to give the kids, Shannon’s response was we did not have to take anything just our time and assistance was enough and by the end of the morning and spending time with the kids we all understood why, as the centre caters for physically and intellectually disabled kids who just require love and a very dedicated staff that needs help. The centre is short staffed. 

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Schoolnet Staff at Sunshine Association

We were placed into three groups and each group managed to participate in the various tasks.

1. Feeding the kids

The day at Sunshine starts when the kids are dropped off by the parents, guardians or oorphanages. There are also kids who come from Alexandra and it is Shannon’s wish that in the near future there will be centres in such areas so that the kids do not have to travel so far everyday. 


Feeding is the first activity and this is done around 9am. It was a wonderful and very humbling experience as we helped the caregivers feed the kids. The kids were fed with oatmeal porridge and each child has a desk with his or her name clearly marked on the table.

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Sonto explained how Banzi the seven year old boy who had a growth disorder and is very small for his age, would feed at a special time as he did not feed first thing in the morning as the other kids. Banzi sleeps most of the day and the caregivers now understand his requirements.

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2. Playing with the kids

Playing with the kids is done after the kids have eaten and the toys and activities depend on each child’s capability.Playtime includes giving them seeds and small objects to encourage the kids to exercise their muscles as well as to open their hands espeically for those whose hands are always closed. In order to encourage them to walk and strengthen their legs we assisted them play on indoor slides and big climbing blocks.

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3. Interacting with the kids at break time

We took a break for tea, thanks to Omashani who kindly provided muffins, cake and biscuits for everyone.As we were gathered together we just marvelled at the incredible tasks the staff at the Centre are performing. Sonto has been there for 19 years, and she has dedicated her life assisting these kids. Shannon has been there for more than ten years. Shannon explained how the Centre is short-staffed as the ideal situation is to have two teachers in a class; but due to financial constraints they only have one per class. It is a challenge when the teacher has to leave the class for example to change a nappy for one child (most of the kids are in diapers).

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After we had tea we were able to interact with the kids at their break time. This is when the kids all go outside to play, with the more senior kids playing in the open garden area and the younger kids playing in a different space where they can be monitored closely.

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As much as we wanted to spend more time with these kids and assist the remarkable staff with the wonderful job at the centre we had to call it a day at 12PM as we had work to do back in the office. 

Thanks to Megan, Elias and Omashani who provided transport on the day.
As we left each person could not help but think how fortunate we are, especially those with their own kids. This is only the beginning for SchoolNet. SchoolNet looks forward to working and getting involved in future activities at Sunshine Association. It was a day well spent!

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